Of course, fear is not confined to schools – UK culture is one of fear (if anybody thinks other than that we live in a culture of fear, then they need their head looked) – but obviously fear is concentrated in schools because it hits you when you go through the gates. And if anybody doesn’t experience this fear, then either (a) they have been working in one place for so long that, like bad smells, they are no longer aware of it, or ( the person blames their feelings of anxiety on him/herself, not on the school or © some people are just too dead to be aware of anything.
I was a career teacher (in the classroom and in management) as well as a supply (relief) teacher for over 30 years. I taught in a huge variety of schools: big and small, “good” and “bad”, inner-city, urban and rural. Fear is endemic to them all, and I can identify some of its sources.
Firstly, children are given more and more control; any damned lie they choose to tell about a teacher is believed (and I have had personal experience of this). Children are also asked to assess their teachers e.g. to interview them for jobs, to report on their teachers’ performance to school inspectors and to spy on them. In everything but name, this is the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany in which children spied upon and reported their parents, siblings, friends, strangers to the Gestapo on the merest whim, whereupon their victims were hauled off to prison for questioning and torture. Teachers live in fear of being “fingered” by one of their pupils.
Examinations are a source of fear to both teacher and pupil. As a pupil I remember the fear of failing my exams, and have seen many a pupil reduced to a nervous wreck due to “exam nerves”. Teachers fear exams for many reasons, a major fear being that exam results are used as “performance indicators” i.e. it is the teacher, not the pupil who sat the exam, who is held responsible for that pupil’s exam results.
There is a growing fear that children are running out of control. For myself I have had fist fights break out among pupils in classes, had furniture thrown at me, been shouted at and jeered by pupils, have had to quell classroom riots etc. Upon returning to teach in urban/city schools after 20 years in rural schools, the deterioration in children’s behaviour was shocking. What passes for “normal”, “acceptable” behaviour today would have had a child expelled from school 20 years ago. The children behave like lunatics. Particularly dangerous or unpredictable children have “minders” who stay with them all day. I have taught classes in which there were more adult minders present than actual pupils. Particularly unpredictable children increasingly include those diagnosed as “having no sense of danger”. Think about it, people. You dare not take your eyes off such a child for an instant. It can pick up a knife and stick it in another pupil, totally oblivious of the danger. Teachers dare not open a classroom window; the child could simply jump out and fall to their death. The child may tamper with classroom electrics and electrocute him/herself (I have known one who did this). Meanwhile the teacher will take the blame for any accidents.
Taking pupils on excursions/field trips has become so fearful that I stopped doing this many years ago. Others persist. One colleague saved an inattentive pupil from falling off a cliff by hauling her out of harms way. He was terrified of subsequently being sued for assault. (If, on the other hand, he had failed to prevent the fall, he would also have been held responsible.)
Technology is also a source of fear.
Schools are being flooded with fancy technology. Technology is temperamental, constantly breaking down. This is hugely stressful, especially as teachers have become dependent on it. Further, the expense of replacing broken equipment, even of breaking it (YOU broke the £350 projector bulb, it wasn’t just “broken”), is fearful. Cheap and inadequate repairs/replacements e.g. patching broken equipment or replacing a broken item with a faulty one which “works”, piles on more stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is also generated when working with equipment that one doesn’t understand, or that requires one to behave differently, but one is not given time to develop outside the classroom.
Some of the most recent technology to be introduced in schools is interactive white boards (replacing low-tech whiteboards and felt-tip pens). Having used them extensively I have grown to loathe these contraptions. For example, using them forces me to work in a way that is awkward and un-natural; the technology cannot adapt to me, I have to adapt to it. This is extremely stressful. Also, using them demands so much of my attention that it prevents proper communication with the pupils; when one should be watching pupils’ faces/expressions for indications of understanding, one is forced, instead, to tussle with the technology.
Many teachers seek promotion by taking on technology, but without the ability to handle it -- a huge source of fear and anxiety. A colleague of mine pursued her career by filling her classroom with technology, without the ability to handle this monster she was nurturing. From the outside, nothing looked amiss; no connection was made between this teacher’s health (she was on heart pills) and her inability to handle technology. However, I did life coaching with this teacher and tried to get her to drop some of the technology. This had a huge positive impact on her health.
Teachers’ behaviour also leaves a lot to be desired. A telling incident happened when a teacher fell foul of school inspectors. Far from getting back-up and support from his colleagues, they used this as an opportunity to attack him, tearing him to shreds like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
So, this is what schools are about. This is the horror of education in the UK. This is what you are putting your children through.
Anybody who has been in the education system for any length of time knows perfectly well that education is on the slide. Anyone who does not admit this is in fear of losing their job, or is a liar. Government has been presiding over this slide. It has been tightening its control and managing ever more intrusively while at the same time avoiding blame and transferring it to teachers. However, if the more government interferes, the worse schools get, then the obvious possibility is that it is government interference that is causing the slide. One might suggest that the best thing government could do for the education system is to leave it alone.
Wow, sounds like you had a hard time as a teacher. Perhaps you should have chosen a different career path, something a little lass stressful perhaps.
p.s. My daughter is a teacher & she describes her job as enjoyable, fun & fulfilling.
Edited by itsnotoutthere, 18 March 2013 - 07:31 PM.